Faces and Visions of the Food Movement: Karen Washington, ‘Queen of Urban Gardening’

Karen Washingon food movement

In the early 1990s, after years of working as a physical therapist, Karen Washington noticed that many of her patients were steadily gaining weight and struggling with diabetes. She realized the people seeking treatment shared something else in common—a lack of fresh produce in their diets. The connection hit home when Washington saw her own son experience the same ailments she heard from her patients. The lifelong New Yorker and dedicated mother vowed to do better for her family and her community. Read More

Organic vs. “Organic”: How Much Does Certification Matter?

Photo by Pranav Bhatt

Whenever we go to the farmers’ market together, my husband and I disagree about whether we should buy the pricey certified organic berries (my husband’s vote) or the less expensive ones grown without certification, but described by the farm as “sustainably produced.” If I look deep into a farmer’s eyes and she tells me that her fruit is “no-spray,” I’ll buy her berries, saving almost a buck a pint. (After all, the strawberries we grow in our own backyard are not certified organic, but I feel good about eating them.)

Lately I’ve been wondering–is my husband right, or is no-spray enough? And what about the assertion—sometimes made by conventional growers—that certified organic farms use pesticides too? Read More

Debunking the Farm Bureau’s Attack on the Clean Water Act

Photo: Shutterstock.

A well-coordinated attack is being waged on a proposed federal rule aimed at clarifying Clean Water Act protection for the nation’s water resources – the same environmentally and economically vital waterways on which, it bears mentioning, our food, water and energy systems are highly dependent. For more than a decade, lack of clarity has left many of our nation’s waters unprotected. According to Clean Water Action, this includes “20 million acres of wetlands, 60 percent of all streams, including headwater, intermittent, and ephemeral streams that supply public drinking water systems that serve 117 million Americans – 5,646 public water supply systems.”

Why are streams and wetlands so vital? In short, it’s their connection (or “connectivity”) to downstream waters. Read More

‘Hanna Ranch’: The Eco-Rancher Against the World

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Hanna Ranch spans across thousands of acres of prairie just south of Colorado Springs, nestled between Fountain Creek and Interstate 25 as both wind their way south. Listen closely and you might hear a meadowlark whistle over the roar of the crowd at the nearby racetrack as the wind whips through the buffalo grass dotting the plains.

The ranch, like most of rural Colorado’s agriculture industry, lies at a crossroads between the man-made and the natural. Hanna Ranch, a documentary produced by Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser and which debuted earlier this year, chronicles one family’s struggle to preserve their namesake ranch under the strain of a rapidly expanding suburbia. Read More

Feeding China’s Pigs: Is US Agribusiness Losing its Global Domination?

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Meat consumption in China has been on a dramatic rise for the last three decades, with one-third of the world’s meat now produced in the country and more than half the world’s pork. Most of it comes from factory-style systems of farming, with large numbers of confined animals fed on grain. A lot of grains.

“We’re heading towards a new era…as the majority of the world’s feed crops are destined for China’s pigs,” predicts Mindi Schneider, an agribusiness researcher at the International Institute of Social Studies in the Netherlands. Read More